Tallahassee city staff recommended earlier this month that City Urban Mission on Mahan Drive not be allowed to open a full-time homeless shelter. On Monday, the city’s Development Review Committee met and seconded the staff’s recommendation, denying City Walk’s homeless shelter permit.
City Walk’s homeless shelter started in December and has since become a contentious issue at community forums, with vocal critics pressuring city commissioners — who don’t have a formal vote in the decision — to deny permission for City Walk to continue on Mahan Drive.
Pastor Renee Miller, executive director at City Walk Urban Mission, said she’s going to continue to fight to keep City Walk open.
“I’m going to continue to fight for my congregation. That’s my duty. I took a vow when I was ordained that I would take care of the flock that God gave me. This is my flock and I don’t take that lightly,” Miller said during Monday’s meeting.
People who have lived at the shelter, people who live nearby, nearby business owners and City Walk advocates were among the roughly 70 people who spoke at the committee meeting.
According to city officials, the shelter failed to fulfill any of the permit’s requirements, including protection and evidence that it would not generate a “private nuisance” for local residents and businesses.
Jeremy Shaw, a resident in the neighborhood, said the shelter has created friction in what had been a close-knit community.
“City Walk probably would be better somewhere else. The negative it made in the beginning will make the handshake very difficult for the residents nearby,” Shaw said.
The public comments lasted nearly three hours. Despite the protests, the city’s Development Review Committee decided not to not grant City Walk a permit to operate as a permanent shelter.
Even after the denial, pastor Miller said she is still determined to serve the homeless and added that she plans to appeal the decision made by city staff. Until the denial gets appealed, the shelter will seek to function as a church and a place for the homeless to get food and shower.
Kelsey Lang, currently housed at City Walk, said the homeless shelter seems to be the only option for homeless people in the area, and City Walk and has been a beacon of hope and support.
“They’ve helped a lot. Nobody else wants to help anybody but them,” Lang said.